Ceremony Pays Tribute to Veterans
They are the men and women of legend.
They hit the beaches of Normandy, dropped by parachute sometimes under cover of darkness and sometimes by daylight into live fire. One survived the attack on Pearl Harbor and another the death march on Bataan.
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — as they do every year — they filled Pinehurst’s Village Hall to pay tribute to fallen comrades, to brothers and sisters in arms from all the nation’s wars.
Some saluting and some with hands on hearts, they rose to stand at attention as cadets from Pinecrest High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC trooped the colors. They joined retired Chief Warrant Officer Roy “Swede” Boreen in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Members of the Golf Capital Chorus led them in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
One by one they rose to identify their units and the conflicts in which they served — some for a year or two and some for decades. As the microphone passed, the crowd applauded each veteran, thanking each one for serving their country.
As the chorus sang a medley in honor of all veterans, veterans from each branch of service — Army, Coast Guard, Navy, Marines, Air Corps — would stand once more, some saluting.
Pinehurst Mayor Ginsey Fallon welcomed everyone to this annual tribute. It is sponsored each Nov. 11 by the local chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).
“I am delighted and thrilled,” she said. “I am very humbled and proud to have had some veterans in my own life. I see all the wonderful young people in back (referring to the soldiers) who are still giving so much to all of us so we are able to be here.
“We have been able to pursue our lives because of all of the sacrifices that all of you have made. Believe me, I am extremely grateful. We all express our thanks to you.”
This year’s keynote address came from retired Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Robert L. Johnson. (The Pilot incorrectly reported Sunday that he was in the Air Force). He served as a “citizen soldier” – an ROTC electrical engineering student at the University of Illinois who — immediately upon graduation in 1941 — joined the 124th Horse Artillery Regiment of the 33rd Division of the Illinois National Guard as a second lieutenant.
By 1943, Johnson was executive officer of a glider battalion at Camp Mackall, where the Army was testing Waco gliders and parachute attacks. It was of those early days testing the practicality of airborne invasion that he spoke.
“In 1943, we conducted an operation that would determine whether or not an airborne attack was possible,” Johnson said. “The maneuver took place on the night of 7 December. The 11th Airborne was being airlifted in 13 separate assaults by 200 C-47 transport aircraft and 234 Waco gliders, two gliders towed behind each plane.”
The plan was to capture Knollwood Air Field by parachute and glider.
“We took off from different airfields in the Carolinas,” he said. “Between them, they carried 4,800 troops. Of the first wave, 85 percent were delivered to targets without navigational error. We seized the Knollwood airport before daylight.
“I was in a glider, with a Jeep, and I landed in a field west of Route 5. As we approached the field, I saw a farmhouse. We missed the house by two feet — this took the right wing off the glider. I opened the nose of the glider and unloaded the Jeep.”
The operation was successful, and the nature of land warfare changed. Johnson went on serve in the Pacific theater and receive his battlefield commission as a Lt. Col. from Gen. MacArthur himself on Luzon.
As bugler Chris Dunn sounded “Taps,” Johnson, Fallon and Col. Donald Goulet, Sandhills MOAA chapter president, laid the memorial wreath.
Following the ceremony all visited with soldiers of C Troop, 5-73 Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, who were stationed outside the hall.
Contact John Chappell at email@example.com.
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